Reviewed by A. L. Brooks
Set in a no-kill rescue shelter for animals, this book is introduced as part one of a series entitled the “Puppy Love” series. Whilst the title of the series sounds slightly frivolous, part one is not so. Georgia Beers, author of the Lambda award-winning “Fresh Tracks”, continues to present us with romances that have all the lovely, squishy stuff we want, but with characters who have flaws that make them less than perfect. And this latest offering is no exception. In fact, I found I enjoyed this one even more than some of her previous novels because one of the main characters, Lisa, is carrying some fairly weighty emotional baggage that means she often says or does things that literally make you wince. I like that. I like that it took me a while to warm to her. I like that in at least two scenes in the book, I was literally saying ‘What the f***?!’ out loud to myself because she’d been so heartless!
Lisa works full-time at the shelter, Ashley volunteers around her day job at a bakery. Lisa is cold, distant, and definitely keen to keep herself to herself. Ashley is sweet, but annoyingly passive, comfortable in her life without feeling the need to push herself to do anything more challenging. As the story unfolds you can’t quite imagine how these two will spark, but Georgia Beers is very good at slowly revealing the depth of her characters, and before you know it, who they are makes a lot of sense, and explains their behaviour up to that point pretty clearly. Which means that when the spark does ignite (because, of course, you know it will), it does so at just the right time and in a very believable way.
Interestingly, although the book then follows the fairly tried-and-tested formula of a bumpy road to happiness (misunderstandings, long silences, kiss-and-make-up scenes), it does so whilst revealing even more just how cold and thoughtless Lisa can inadvertently be, making you really want to reach into the pages and shake her! At some points you’re not even sure if you want them to get together, and I actually found that a truly enjoyable experience. It was nice not to feel totally loved-up about them both all the way through, and it kept me guessing a lot longer than a lot of stock romances do.
I also enjoyed the descriptions of the work done by the shelter, and it’s clear this is a subject matter close to Georgia’s heart. It came across as very well researched, and for me she struck just the right balance between telling us the reality of what the animals had been through before they were brought to the shelter versus standing on a soapbox shouting about the mistreatment of domestic pets. I was left in no doubt that there are some very evil people out there, but I wasn’t left thinking I’d purely read an advert for the admirable work such shelters do.
The book ends on a note that hints at what more there is to come from the series, either from Lisa and Ashley’s story, or perhaps from some of the other lesbian characters that have been introduced in this first instalment. I will certainly be eagerly awaiting that next chapter.